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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

US Vet Job Market For Foreigners

Here is a recent email from a veterinary student in South Korea.
I am studying veterinary medicine in s. korea. I was googling about forign veterinarian and found your blog. I saw your answers from emails. And i have something curious and hard to get an answer. My letter can look akward but hope you feedback . Short one is surely okay
I am personally want to work and live in USA . So i am preparing to get an american vet license. Actually i've never been usa .
If i get a license it can be hard for me to get a job? Though AVMA's course requires certain level of english skill, clinical service sometime needs more than medical profession.
The good news is that unemployment among veterinarians in the US is very low.  The bad news is that it's increasing.  While almost all US graduates find jobs, it is becoming harder to do so and you don't have as many options.  After I graduated I sent out several dozen resumes and got job offers from three different practices.  I had my pick of the three.  Nowadays that is a very rare situation and new vets often end up taking the first offer because there aren't a lot of other choices.  And remember that this is for US veterinary students who know the language and culture well.
Coming to a new country can be a big change.  Not only is there a language difference but an often big cultural one as well.  Because the US is so large and includes over 300 million people, there are also significant geographic differences.  Anyone who has lived in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Houston, and Atlanta can tell you that there are big differences in how people act and interact.  Even among Americans there can be a culture shock going from one region to another!
People tend to react best to other people who look, act, and sound like them.  That doesn't mean that foreign graduates can't be successful.  I've worked with several in my area that are from South America, the Caribbean, and other places who are extremely well-liked, successful, and respected.  But I've also worked with vets who are difficult to understand because they are not as fluent in English or don't seem to relate well to American culture.  These folks seem to struggle in the profession and clients don't take to them as well.
My first recommendation to anyone considering living and working in another country (not just the US) is to first visit it.  Take a long vacation to that country or area of the country and spend some time simply looking around and interacting with people.  You will get a good sense of your language skills when speaking to natives who may have a regional accent, and will also start to learn how well you can adapt to the culture.  If the country doesn't seem like a good fit for you, you've lost nothing more than time and money on an interestnig vacaton.  If you are indeed intrigued and want to do more, I would recommend getting a work visa and doing some temporary work.  In this case it doesn't have to be as a veterinarian.  Having friends or contacts in the country is always a huge help, as they can ease your transition and provide you a place to stay or work.
Getting a veterinary license in the US when you are coming from a foreign country is a very long, often difficult process which costs a lot of money.  I wouldn't recommend investing the time and finances unless you have visited the US and are sure that you want to make a career here.  And if you do decide to stay (really, we're a great place to live and work!) realize that jobs are out there but may not be easy to find right away.  Being flexible about where you live is the best way to find a job.